After testing out coworking in several properties since 2017, this week AccorHotels made it official: By 2022, they’ll be opening 1,200 WOJO branded coworking spaces, becoming Europe’s largest coworking brand.
The Future of Coworking = Hotels…and Vice Versa
Oh, it feels just like yesterday when back at CUAsia 2017, there were laughs in the crowd when I said “The future of Coworking is following the model of hotels…and vice versa”. Ok, so not EVERY hotel is going to be a coworking space, and not every coworking space will be located in a hotel, but it’s certainly a concept that’s starting to take off.
Mind you, I’d have never imagined that less than six months after that my business partner and I would be opening NEST Dubai in the brand new TRYP by Wyndham Dubai. Coworking in a hotel is not a TOTALLY new concept…folks have been working out of lounges and lobbies forever. It does however take more than just dropping some tables into a room. Though many have tried, there are few that get rave reviews.
AccorHotels Launches WOJO
What began as a partnership between AccorHotels and Bouygues Group back in 2017 quickly led to the hotel brand taking a 50% stake in Nextdoor. The French coworking brand first established in 2014 had ten locations open under that name. A test pilot at AccorHotel properties such as Mercure Paris Montmartre Sacré Cœur, Novotel London Canary Wharf Hotel, Pullman Liverpool Hotel and Ibis Cambridge Central Station led to the creation of the new brand, WOJO.
WOJO will become Europe’s largest coworking brand, outpacing WeWork, Spaces and even Regus as they launch 1,200 locations in AccorHotel properties throughout the continent by 2022.
They will offer three different types of coworking, shared work or meeting spaces:
These will offer workers access to free “friendly” workspaces to be productive while enjoying personalized service and fast WiFi. There will be 150 locations open in Paris and Lyon, France by Summer 2019, with over 1,000 total open across Europe by 2022.
This version, of which the first is already open at the Mercure Paris Montmartre Sacré Cœur, provides dedicated spaces for coworking. WOJO Corners will be offered at AccorHotels to start and will quickly be followed with 100 locations in train stations, shopping malls and airports.
Most similar to their larger competitors, these locations will be standalone coworking spaces. Besides offering private offices, meeting rooms and open workspaces, they’ll also provide communal areas like bars, lounges and kitchens.
Most people might think about hotels only when planning vacations, but there’s a world of road warriors that for decades have been working out of their hotel rooms or worse…hotel “business centers”. It should come as no shock that as more and more people opt to work out of coworking spaces, that when they’re on the road they’ll want something similar.
Marriott offers coworking areas in the Living Rooms of their trendy, millennial-focused Moxy branded properties. There are also rumors swirling that as part of a full brand re-fresh, lobbies in their 400 Sheraton properties will also offer “productivity spaces”.
Selina, a fast growing startup that has raised over $350 million with over 50 properties offers coliving, coworking, hostel and hotel rooms targeting the oh so chic digital nomad jet set crowd. Of course there’s OG properties like Hotel Schani Wien who opened their coworking + hotel concept back in 2015.
In an interview, the CEO of Accor Europe put it best:
“We have the assets (brands, spaces, teams), we have the services (restaurants, bars, meeting spaces) and we are open 24/7,” said Gervais. “By participating in WOJO’s ambitious development, we are optimizing the use of these assets and are creating value for our owners by being open to a new type of customer, i.e. coworkers.”Frank Gervais, CEO of Accor Europe
Not Too Fast…
Co-Founder of Agora RDM, Tiffanie Mark (my business partner) and my partner in crime on the NEST Dubai project puts this booming trend in perspective: “It’s not hard to do it right, but it is easy to do it wrong.” Point being, as more hotel owners and brands jump into coworking as a way to market themselves differently, become more attractive to business travelers or increase revenue, there will be plenty that are nothing more than “lipstick on a pig”.
At the end of the day, while hotels have the real estate, customers and demand to pursue this new market, they’ll need to understand the services and amenities users have become accustomed to at their home coworking space. This means doing more than simply putting out tables and increasing the speed of WiFi.
None the less, as someone who thought he’d never see this day and spends 200+ days a year on the road, I’m ecstatic. Why you ask? Well, now I can get great workspace, quality accommodations AND EARN LOYALTY POINTS & BONUS CREDIT CARD MILES…all in a “one stop shop”.
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